Thursday, November 12, 2009


From Perry Anderson, 'The River of Time', NLR 26 (2004):

Classically, utopias were imagined as islands, enclaves or colonies—
delimited spaces, either segregated within the world, or projected beyond
it. Today, would not the appropriate utopia have to be globalized, the
whole earth brought under the wing of that butterfly, fluttering so well
and so fast? But we can also envisage the renewal of utopian energies
more historically. No-one has captured that other tempo more strikingly
than Jameson, in one of those unexpected sentences that are his signature.
It comes from Brecht and Method, where he writes:

Stasis today, all over the world—in the twin condition of market and globalization,
commodification and financial speculation—does not even take on
a baleful religious sense of an implacable human nature; but it certainly
seems to have outstripped any place for human agency, and to have rendered
the latter obsolete. That is why a Brechtian conception of activity
must go hand in hand with a revival of the older precapitalist sense of time
itself, of the change or flowing of all things; for it is the movement of this
great river of time or the Tao that will slowly carry us downstream again to
the moment of praxis.

Lao Tse floating towards Marx. Is the torrent of capital now churning
too fast for such a rendezvous? Later, Jameson raises that objection himself.
Others might question the paradox of an activism delivered by a
drift with the stream. But the power of the image remains. It requires
no attentisme. The Tao Te Ching is also a cry of social anger, a ├ža ira of
its times. ‘Exterminate benevolence, discard righteousness’—‘the people
will be a hundred times better off’. Few words knock so sharply on our
door, in an age of institutional piety of which Confucius could only have
dreamt. Should we call them too utopian?

(sent from Mr. Toscano)